hands-on help

On Sunday, my husband and I took off for a much-overdue trip to Massachusetts to visit our daughter, leaving the younger two kids at home to take care of the house and do the milking. 

On the way up, we stopped at my aunt and uncle’s place to spend the night and pick-up/drop off a bunch of stuff: several gallons of syrup from my cousin in exchange for a bunch of cheese, a mattress topper from my other cousin, etc. 

My aunt served us crepes and fruit, and my uncle showed us how to make maple sugar. I’d had no idea how it was made and found it endlessly entertaining (which he knew I would), and now I can’t wait to try it with some of my syrup. 

We were going to hit the road first thing in the morning, but then my husband got to talking, and then I got to talking, and, well, so much for early! (Not that I minded. It’d been a couple years since we’d been to their place and I could’ve happily visited for hours.)

When we arrived at the farm, my daughter was riding, so we watched while she finished up, and then I trailed her around the barn while she blanketed horses and cleaned up. 

She’s been working at Iron Horse for the last fifteen months, and she loves it, but being so far away from home hasn’t been easy. Over the last year she’s had to figure out everything: car insurance, establishing residency, grocery shopping, and health insurance, not to mention learning how to navigate a new place and a different culture, and then there was the cold, dark New England winter to contend with. Everything revolves around work and, since she has only one day off a week, she has no community beyond the barn (this, I think, is the hardest part). But she’s tough, and, like I said, she loves the work. As of now, she plans to stay at least until (through?) winter of 2023 — her trainer is having knee replacement surgery this fall and has asked her to fill in with a bunch of his responsibilities training and riding his horses while he’s laid up, in addition to her regular duties. 

The afternoon we arrived, she’d gotten a piece of sawdust in her eye and it was still really bothering her. As the evening went on, it got progressively worse. She’d tried all the things — flushing it, rolling back her eyelid, ice packs, crying. We went to Target for the special cup thing to wash the eyeball, and for soothing eyedrops. Nothing worked. 

So then we spent the next couple hours at urgent care where she got to use her new health insurance card for the first time. (They were turning people away because they were understaffed, but then the nurse took pity on us and worked us in, bless his heart.)

The doctor swiped the eye lid a couple times, dyed it, and numbed it — he never found anything, but by the next morning she was perfectly fine so they must’ve gotten it (or else it was a scratch that healed overnight). 

Twice, we stopped here to get food. It’s one of my daughter’s favorite spots, and the place is always packed. That, plus the fact that a lot of the employees don’t speak much English, is a sure sign it’s authentic. (There’s a huge Brazilian population in the area; most of the men who work at the farm are from Brazil.)

The real reason for the trip was to get my daughter’s car road legal.

It had failed inspection, thanks to a busted bumper (in Massachusetts, cosmetic stuff matters, apparently) and then, since getting a new bumper in the shop was ridiculously pricey, my husband decided to do it himself. Besides, it was high time our daughter had a little hands-on support from us. 

My husband spent the morning installing the bumper and fixing headlights. And then we took the car to get inspected — it passed — and on the way back home the muffler fell off and then he spent the afternoon fixing that. So that worked out well.

He also shaved down the front door (she and another worker, and three dogs, live in a small rental next door to the barn) since it sticks and is hard to open, and he changed lightbulbs in some of the ceiling fixtures and nailed down part of the kitchen counter that had lifted up. He explored the basement, and then I went down there and was like, There’s furniture here! Let’s use it! And then we drug up a table for the kitchen and two chairs (they can ask forgiveness from the home owner later), and my daughter dug out a tablecloth and picked a few sprigs of forsythia, and I lit some candles. And then we went to Target for a couple lamps and two butter knives (because they only have two — this problem is solvable, m’child!), and then to TJMaxx for canisters for sugar and flour. 

That afternoon I putzed around in the kitchen, making a batch of vanilla pudding and a baked French toast for a future breakfast, and boiling eggs for the evening chef salads, and then I was like, “We should move all the pantry items over here and all the appliance over there,” and my daughter was like, Um, I think the table already rocked our world enough. 

The next morning we took off before breakfast. She had to be at the barn early, and we had a long drive ahead of us.

Which we survived! Today, I’m making cheese and doing laundry and relaxing. It’s lovely to be home. I just wish Massachusetts wasn’t so far away…

This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week 59, making pie: I have a system, the best fix, in the night air, with an audience, let’s pretend this isn’t happening, the quotidian (4.21.14), loose ends, therapy, what Willy Wonka’s chocolate river tastes like.


  • Becky R.

    Oh, to have parents that I could rely upon for assistance if I needed it! I don’t think anyone ever gets too old for a bit of parental love and assistance. It’s hard to find unconditional love. Glad your daughter’s eye was OK. That’s painful and worrisome when it happens.

  • Cheryl

    Your timing in visiting your daughter, was impeccable! One always wants their mom when one is not 100%, like having an eye issue.
    Let’s face it, we all need help from dad and mom, no matter how old we are.
    I bet she was so happy to see you both!

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